Maggots, sewage, bats, butterflies and Brexit

Leigh Day and the Human Rights Lawyers Association  hosted a full house on Wednesday 22 March when Claire McGregor and David Hart QC from 1 Crown Office Row joined Sarah Sackman from Francis Taylor Building, Adrienne Copithorne from Richard Buxton LLP and Rebekah Read from Leigh Day to speak about how to become an environmental lawyer.

The audience heard how on her first day working in environmental law, Claire McGregor boarded a plane to the Ivory Coast to work on the Trafigura case involving 30,000 claimants suing oil multinational Trafigura for compensation following a toxic oil spill. The case went on to become the largest group litigation case in the UK. Continue reading

Uber, Doublespeak and the ‘Gig’ Economy

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master –  that’s all.”
Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6

Few judicial decisions provoke the frenzy of editorials, newspaper articles, opinion pieces, facebook status updates and dinner table debates as were prompted by that of the Employment Tribunal last Friday in Aslam, Farrar and Others v Uber.  Fewer still can boast references to both Shakespeare and Milton, nor deliver such a joy to read (assuming you are not, in fact, the Respondents’ lawyers).  Volunteering to write about the judgment shortly after its publication on Friday afternoon, it took little time before I realised this piece would be one among a crowded chorus of views.

Among the maelstrom, The Sunday Times (£) was concerned it would herald the end of the end of the ‘gig’ economy, the Guardian argued that avoiding paying benefits was not a fair route to profits,  while the Financial Times (£) approved the forging of a ‘middle way’ for fair treatment of workers and the company. For some the decision was seismic, potentially ground-breaking; for others it could spell tragedy; a lone voice thought it would change very little. Rightsinfo have provided an excellent plain English summary here.

Continue reading

Down the Rabbit Hole of Genetic Testing

Can our genotype tell us about our behaviour as well as our biology?

Photo credit: Guardian

“ After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill: the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill: you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

– Morpheus, The Matrix

The explosion of genetic testing in the last half century has produced unquantifiable benefits, allowing scientists to understand the constitution of genetic disorders and dramatically improve disease diagnosis, avoidance and treatment. Consider the near-eradication of Tay-Sachs, a fatal neurodegenerative disease, since the introduction of screening in the 1970s; the standardisation of newborn testing; and the introduction of BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing for inherited cancer genes.

These advances have created challenging ethical and legal questions, however: How much information does each of us want to know about our genetic makeup?; Do we have a responsibility to seek such information out? What should we do with the information once we get it? What about the significant risks of stigmatisation and discrimination?; And, where do doctors’ duties begin and end insofar as they are, or ought to be aware of testing outcomes?

In the High Court last week (judgment available here) McKenna J dealt with the latter question, striking out a claim by a patient’s relatives over a missed diagnosis of a genetic disorder and holding that a third party cannot recover damages for a personal injury suffered because of an omission in the treatment of another. Continue reading